Artist: Mayer Hawthorne
Album: Where Does This Door Go (Deluxe Edition)
Label: Universal Republic Records
Quality: FLAC (image+.cue)
Back Seat Lover
The Only One
Wine Glass Woman
Her Favorite Song
Crime (with Kendrick Lamar)
Reach Out Richard
Where Does This Door Go
The Stars Are Ours
CD 2 (bonus):
Mayer Hawthorne’s got retro-soul revivalist tags stapled on to him, thanks to a hip-hop fiend’s sense of vintage soul. On his new album, Where Does This Door Go, Hawthorne cedes his usual production duties to an all-star cast and adds new dimensions to his repertoire.
If you really want to get where Mayer Hawthorne’s coming from, it’s not enough to just check out his first two studio albums, A Strange Arrangement and How Do You Do. Those records got retro-soul revivalist tags stapled on to them, thanks to a hip-hop fiend’s sense of vintage soul that drew heavily off Stax/Motown goodwill vibes. But the real scope of his musical influences jump out on the 2011 covers EP, Impressions, where his classic R&B leanings ran the gamut from the well-loved Isleys to the obscure Festivals. He also made a point of taking on some of his blue-eyed soul contemporaries– artists like Chromeo and Jon Brion, who work adjacent to R&B and funk without necessarily binding themselves to it. If integrating those attributes meant Hawthorne took on multiple pop lineages at once in order to establish a unique identity of his own, it’s served him well so far.
As he keeps moving forward and adds on new dimensions to his repertoire, Hawthorne’s new album, Where Does This Door Go, gives him a lot of self-imposed leeway. Here he cedes his usual production duties to an all-star cast. There’s Cee-Lo collaborator and Plantlife funkateer Jack Splash, Oak of pop-rap/R&B production superteam Pop & Oak, producer-to-the-stars Greg Wells and– most prominent of all– Pharrell Williams, who shares Hawthorne’s eccentric depth and enthusiasm for modernized, chronology-twisting sounds. That Hawthorne’s wrangled this crew into a consistently engaged sound is to his credit, where his impact is tangible enough that the committee effect takes a backseat.
Hawthorne deliberately shaking his throwback rep is probably the best thing you could expect from Where Does This Door Go: the songs sound clean and of the now, aided by people who successfully mine the last couple generations’ best pop ideas. That this music sounds sly without actually feeling like a joke is impressive– there’s too much practiced musicianship in songs like the breezy quiet storm*-via-Private Eyes “Backseat Lover” or the N.E.R.D.-does-Aja* bounce of “Reach Out Richard”. This wouldn’t be the first review comparing Hawthorne’s sensibility to ’77 Steely Dan or ’81 Hall & Oates, but those admittedly fitting touchstones mean that even through production proxies, he’s springboarding off of artists who were already looking at the horizon and the rearview at the same time. Retro isn’t the same thing as timeless, and this album trades up in taking that second route.
by Nate Patrin